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My boyfriend's mom wants him all to herself

Tagged as: Dating, Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (21 January 2014) 7 Answers - (Newest, 24 January 2014)
A female United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

My boyfriend is a 38 year old never married bachelor.

His mother is a fairly recent widow (of a year and a half,) and his sister is going through a divorce so she is a very recent single mom. They both seem to expect him to not only fulfill the male role of the household, but they expect to have him--exclusively--to themselves. He wants his own family, which starts with cultivating a relationship with a woman he loves (that's where I come in.)I agree he should help them and be involved in their lives, but at Christmas time when they tried to exclude me, I became wary. I believe they are trying to prevent my boyfriend from ever getting married and having a family of his own. They use him for functionality and expect him to be at their beckon call.

When I first met him, he had his own apartment in the city but was spending most of his nights in the suburbs at his mom's house. In fact, he spent so much time with her that in the early stages of dating I suspected/feared he might be married!! Then I met everyone involved and learned that he certainly has no wife, just a mother he is very attached to and who is very attached to him. Since then, he has grown leaps and bounds. We now both spend most nights at his apartment together. He still goes to his mom's house 2-3 nights a week, and this includes spending the night there. He aksed me to move in with him, then basically changed his mind so I still have my own apartment. I wish he wanted to stay with me more, but I can't control him. If that is what he wants to do, I'll have to live with my sadness and deal with it. My personal perception of a healthy mother / adult-son relationship would have him going to her house to visit her one day a week --no sleep overs, and of course rush to her side if there is an emergency. But again, he's a grown man and I have to deal with his decisions even when I disagree with them or they hurt me. In the mean time, the problem is his mother is having a really hard time letting him go at all. Two times earlier in our relationship, he actually shushed me when she called so she wouldn't know he was with me. I let him know that offended me, so he stopped doing it, and now lets his mother know with shame in his voice that he is with me when she calls. He never misses her call. He literally jumps to answer it when she's calling (which is often.) She lays major guilt trips on him about not spending enough time with the family. At Christmas time, she wouldn't invite me to the house, so he stayed with me instead. She made him choose--and she didn't like his choice. Then she called him Christmas day to try to prevent him from bringing me to his Aunt's house, where he and I were both invited. I heard her yell, "GO TO BOSTON!" before hanging up the phone. That was a reference to Thanksgiving when we were supposed to go to Boston to meet my family for the first time, but my boyfriend ended up backing out last minute. Clearly his mother had a huge problem with the fact that he even considered coming to Boston to meet my family. Then his sister called and I heard this:

Sister: Are you coming to Aunt's or not?

Him: Yes.

Sister: With her? (meaning me)

Him: Yeah!

Sister: I think that's a bad idea

Him: I don't understand why it's a bad idea

Sister: This is not the time to be introducing family to someone you're casually dating.

Him: That's not even true!

She also said he was selfish for not being there to open presents with his 3 year old nephew. The reason he wasn't there is because the mother made him choose between me or the family. If I had been invited, he would've been there. His mom's whole platform over Christmas was that I shouldn't be there because I'm not family. But my boyfriend wants a family of his own some day, very soon, with me, and knows that he needs to be with me to build that (He says my engagement ring is being custom made as we speak. But has already requested that once I get it, I don't wear it around his family because he has is procrastinating telling them.)

One time his mother picked me up from the train station and my bf and i were going to see a movie with my friend and my friend's 4 year old son, and she made a big deal about how he is going to the movies with someone else's kid but doesn't spend enough time w/ his own nephew. She said, "Family's important too--MORE important!" This is when I wanted to tell her that we're almost engaged and he wants me to have his kids, which I won't do unless I'm number one in his life, but I didn't. I also wanted to say "sometimes families change," but I didn't say that either. I said nothing. The next time she saw me, she apologized...which seemed nice at first, but then she turned it into what I think was a manipulation tactic. She said, "Ever since I lost my husband, my kids are everything to me." But then she talked about how she wants more grand kids so she knows she has to let her son I really don't know if her apology was real or just another ploy. She lamented how they once had a nice family but people keep leaving, her husband died, then her son-in-law left (although she didn't like her son-in-law and is thrilled that her daughter is divorcing him. she didn't tell me that, my boyfriend already had.)

She also asks him really personal questions like if we're having intimate relations or not and how much he spent on me for Christmas, making sure he didn't spend more on me than he did on the family. She gets very upset when she perceives him as doing things with me that he doesn't do with her, like going out to eat or to the movies. She has made both of these statements. She called once while we were at lunch and he told her what we were doing and she said, "you never go out to eat with us!" To me it seems strange of her to get jealous of his relationship with his girlfriend. She should expect it to be different than the one he has with her.

How can I safeguard my relationship with him? I am so afraid she will throw a wrench in the gears of the progression of our relationship. I think she's part of the reason he changed his mind about us moving in and I know she had an influence in canceling his trip to Boston to meet my family. Initially when my boyfriend was talking about getting engaged the first quarter of this year, my first reaction to him was that I should spend more time with his mother so she's not shocked by the announcement that her son is marrying a stranger. But things changed for me after Christmas. I don't think I'll ever be able to win her over. She wants his undivided attention. She doesn't want to share him. I think she's just a selfish, self-centered person who is only concerned with her needs. He WANTS to be married and have kids, but she is guilting him into staying with her. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm not a mother's worst nightmare by any means. I have no kids of my own, a college education and a full time job. I don't think she'd welcome anyone into her family. So my question is just how can I survive this and make sure my relationship surives it?

View related questions: christmas, divorce, engaged, jealous

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (24 January 2014):

I was in a eerily similar situation. I was dating a momma's boy for two years. It was nightmarish. He is 38 also and never been married! His mother was the devil. Basically all the same exact problems you had, I had too. WiseOwl is correct in that these women can be grouped together in one category as they all have the same character traits. And my boyfriend was just like your's, never stood up to her and would allow his mom to jerk him around like a scared puppy. Its a very sick dynamic.

I spoke to him countless times and tried to put my foot down to no avail. I don't think guys like that change. The sick dynamic perpetuated by the controlling parent is so ingrained in their personality...for them its as commonplace as breathing. They don't get it and they never question it.

He and I eventually broke up and I am so much happier. Now I date MEN! Its awesome. I see now how miserable my situation was. I would never go back to that. I don't think he will ever change. And staying in this situation is going to cripple your self esteem because they are taking away the dignity and respect that you deserve and that a MAN will give you hands down without a question about it, no matter who is butt hurt about your relationship. A man would never ask you to hide your status, engagement ring...he would never tolerate himself or anyone mistreating you like that.

You sound like a reasonable person. I would get out of that situation and never look back. Let him and his mom go have their thing. They've disrespected you way too much. You can do so much better. This I know because I went through it. You are making a big mistake if you marry this guy.

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A male reader, Fatherly Advice United States + , writes (22 January 2014):

Fatherly Advice agony auntI thought about this one over the night and I woke up with this thought. At 38 he has lived with her as an adult for 16 to 20 years depending on his level of maturity. Many marriages don't last that long. You are fighting against a huge amount of inertia.

Now my personal advice concerning marriage vs. extended family. Family is important, the most important family is you and your spouse. The Bible backs this up in Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:31, the second Paul quotes the first. Some people have mistakenly used these verses to justify clinging to heir daughters as is evidenced by the age old rhyme. A so is your son until he gets a wife, but a daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life. The advice in these verses is for new couples to leave and cleave. To leave their old families and to join together making a new single entity. I strongly support this idea based on my observation of those around me who have suffered from overly clingy parents.

Your relationship has become a masquerade where you disguise the nature of your relationship to appease the extended family. They are so comfortable with where they are that they accept the obvious lies from you to maintain their viewpoint. In other words they are lying to themselves to maintain their fantasy. Out of pity for them you and your fiance are allowing them this illusion. The most healthy thing would be to let the light in. To put it bluntly if one of these other women were to "accidentally" catch you two having sexual intercourse, it would shatter the illusion that you are casually dating. That would be one way of breaking the spell. The kinder and gentler way would be for him to involve them both in planing the engagement party / proposal. Either way it is going to be a difficult and painful separation.

The alternative of course is for you to accept his ring and only wear it when they aren't looking. I suppose that would be followed by a wedding ring that you would also need to conceal while he still has over night visits with his mother. Then explaining the new children in some way. You see it is simply impossible.

Making the break is not only necessary it is the kindest thing for all.


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A female reader, Nime United States +, writes (22 January 2014):

Nime agony auntPlease do yourself a favor and read the book 'When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open their Hearts to True Love and Commitment' by Dr. Kenneth Adams. It covers what happens when men grow up with an unhealthy attachment to their inappropriately needy mothers. The book goes into detailed cases of mother-son enmeshment and how the unhealthy relationship affects the mother, son and girlfriend/significant other and offers advice for everyone. In your case, it's either going to be therapy for your boyfriend, or you will need to walk away. Your boyfriend's issues are deeply ingrained since childhood and not going to fix themselves, you need to take action.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (22 January 2014):

I married a man similar to this. Things never improved and all that happened was my self worth deteriorated. My ex never stood up for me or our marriage. A marriage I struggled to maintain for 19 years. My advice is to walk away. At your age lots of men will not have this problem. I held on. Big mistake.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (22 January 2014):

The bond between a mama's boy and his mother is to the grave.

It is stronger if he is the only son.

A strong son will settle disputes, protect his mate, and his mother will step away. She will honor his choices and treat his wife with due respect. If he is a real man.

Death of the father will make his mother more manipulative and possessive; because he is the last remnant of the male fiber that held the family together. He bears the family name. The relationship between mother and son was forged very early in his life. She is usually a strong-willed woman, and didn't let him out of her sight. She often intervened in his defense when he and his father disagreed; he protected her if his father ever dared to do her harm. Together, they've become a force to be reckoned with.

Girlfriends and wives do all they can to challenge this bond. His mother gave birth to him. He knows she'd give her life to see to his happiness. He places her on a pedestal, and sees her as a saint. He knows when the world turns against him, in her eyes he can do no wrong. He offers her his strength to depend on; when he sees she has no other source, or place to turn for it. She is a widow, and she'll play it to the hilt. She crafty. She plays the guilt card like a pro.

Unfortunately, he will always be her boy. These are difficult men to make boyfriends and husbands; because he and his mother come as a package. The most difficult part is, no woman is ever good enough; and she is like a lioness when it comes to being over-protective. She is often cruel and irrational. Meddlesome and divisive.

He has to make a choice. To be a man, or a boy for the rest of his life. These men put their wives and girlfriends through hell. I have responded to dozens of these posts; and after marriage, the boy remains a boy. The mother becomes a venomous and hateful shrew; who does everything to make her daughter-in-law feel unwelcome, and to drive a wedge between husband and wife. Or should I say, boy and wife. She sometimes can see through women, and has saved his hide. She isn't 100% accurate, and jealousy will make her biased. Generally speaking, these women are very similar. I've read your characterization dozens of times.

The wife comes first once a man is married. He and his wife have formed a new bond; and he should not allow his parents to demote him from man to boy. He has to standup on his own and protect his own family. Parents have their place, but it is not between him and his wife. Girlfriends don't get the same status. They have a choice to leave, and they have something to prove.

If you want this man to be your husband, you will have to be certain where you stand. If you will always be second to his mother, you are better off not to marry him.

You will know long before you marry him; if his mother will rule your home.

If you think you can endure it, then it's up to you to marry him. Just be prepared. As far as the bond between him and his mother; that isn't going to change, until she is dead and buried.

Some guys grow up, but the challenge is determining if you have that kind of guy.

If you're a strong woman, and up to the task. Stay. Just know there will always be his mother; and she will always try to maintain the powerful bond she has with her son.

Only age will mellow her spirit, and time will weaken her hold. She may in time, realize you are the best thing that ever happened to her son. If she is stubborn,it will be hard for her to admit.

She may come to love you. Respect you. She realizes time is stealing her away, and she wants to be sure he still has the love she always wanted him to have. Some wicked women go to hell the minute they close their eyes. They never change, and die all the more hateful. Leaving destruction behind them. I hope for your sake, she's not that kind.

I hope you have the kind of man who can be a man, and still love his mother. That he is strong enough to love you both, and make peace between you; and encourage you to love each other.

If you are looking for advice as to what you can do. Very little. It all depends on him.

If he asks you to marry him. That is his moral obligation to you. To be a man, and insist that his mother be good to you. Seek her blessing.

Accept nothing less, if you promise to be his wife; and the mother of his children.

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A female reader, celtic_tiger United Kingdom +, writes (22 January 2014):

celtic_tiger agony auntI'd like to add my reply to this, as I have a viewpoint from your boyfriends position. it might not answer your question but it gives a different view.

At 30 years old I am still living at home with my mother (for various financial reasons, including finishing a postgrad degree), just finding my feet in a career.

In the last two weeks I have broken up with my boyfriend of two years - a man who I never thought I would meet and who has treated me like a princess since day 1. A man who I still love dearly with all my heart and who until two weeks ago I thought I had a very long future with. He was the man I wanted to marry.

Sadly my mother has ruined that. At the beginning of our relationship she thought he was "lovely" then when it got serious her attitude towards him changed completely. After a year she couldn't stand the sight of him, and then set upon a campaign of character assassination and hate. It got to the point where they would both ignore each other whilst sat in the same room.

My mother and I have been through a lot over the years and she suffers terribly with depression, having been suicidal in the past. As a daughter and only child it has always been my responsibility to keep her going, through tough times when we thought we would lose our home, lack of money and divorce. I am her emotional crutch. As a daughter who has been conditioned to that role it is incredibly difficult to go against that and do something that she hates.

Essentially she is jealous of him. Jealous of the time I spend with him, and she sees him as a distraction, and a potential problem for furthering my career. She assumes that having a man in my life will mean I give up on a career and end up having kids and being tied to the kitchen sink. She doesn't want me to lead a life of hardship and drudgery like she did.

It breaks my heart that I have to choose between my mum and my boyfriend. I am torn in two by the fact that half my heart wants to be with him, but the other half is tearing itself up at the thought my mother might so something stupid if I left her and shut her out of my life.

I couldn't live with that on my conscience.

So that is why my boyfriend and I mutually decided to end our relationship. We don't want to. We still love each other, and every day apart is painful. But long term there is no way it would work as there would always be hate and distrust.

As a child of a domineering parent, I ask you to think about what might go on under the surface. I am judged, and people assume things (wrongly). There are many reasons why adults are in situations like this.

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A female reader, Tisha-1 United States +, writes (21 January 2014):

Tisha-1 agony auntYou ask "How can I safeguard my relationship with him?"

The real question is, why isn't he moving forward with his life and setting boundaries for his mother?

You think he really wants to be married and have children? If he really and truly did, he'd have done that by now. He's 38 years old.

He needs some therapy to come to grips with his mother and her hold on him, but that's up to him to do. You can't do much about it.

I just answered another question from a woman whose boyfriend keeps on playing games and lying about getting engaged, including some huge fantastical story about buying a $25,000 ring.

I think what you two have in common is that you assume the guy is capable of doing what he states he wants to.

It's painfully obvious that your guy has no intention of setting the limits.

I don't know why but if he's not going to rock the family boat then there's no way on earth you will be able to get him out of it.

I would set a time limit for yourself on him proving otherwise, say 6-9 months, and if he can manage to extricate himself then you have a shot. Otherwise, I'd write him off as a 38 year old eternal bachelor. That's what he's comfortable with, obviously.


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